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How To Shoot Timelapse Photography – (Part 1: An Intro)

There comes a time when our creativity reaches a plateau. We want to reach a specific goal, we achieve that objective and we are then ready to move on and master something new and move forward.

I spent a lot of time admiring photographers from my hometown of Toronto who had similar interests to gain inspiration. It would force me to learn new techniques and solve problems I was struggling with. I would see photographers I shot with such as Oscar Flores aka @416shots on Instagram post time lapses and I was immediately impressed. I knew it was something I had to try so I began researching the process.

My First Splash in the Timelapse Waters

There seemed like a lot to learn and take in and I am rather impatient so the quickest and easiest way to try filming a time lapse is on my iPhone 6 and that is just what I decided to do.

The set up is simple. Find an ideal location, compose your shot, attach your iPhone to a tripod and press record. For this I used the small Joby GripTIght Gorilla Pod Stand bendy (no that’s not the technical name) and wrapped it around my larger tripod. My battery was fully charged and didn’t know how long it would last. I started about an hour before the sunset and hoped that it would still be recording once darkness fell. I left my camera perched upon a 48 story balcony and came back a few hours later and this is what I recorded.

The above time-lapse is completely untouched. I did import it to iMovie hoping to add music but unfortunately due to royalty laws none of the scores I wished to include were legally viable. Boo hoo :(

I felt like shooting a time-lapse on my iPhone was cheating. I wanted to learn how to shoot a proper time-lapse that I would be able to edit and personalize to my liking. I watched and studied many time-lapses and would then research how specific things were achieved. I watched YouTube tutorials to learn different techniques and be cognizant of all the things I needed to consider before I began.

What I’ve Learned So Far

lifeguard miami beach
Miami Beach, Florida | Shot on Sony A7.

I compiled a list of all the things I needed to take into account before committing hours to each project.

1) Find the perfect location (preferably a place you can get comfortable for several hours because that’s how long you will be sitting around waiting)

2) Make sure your composition is to your liking before you begin. Take a couple test shots. Make sure everything is in focus. Plan for changes in lighting.

3) Bring fully charged batteries and empty memory cards. I made the mistake of not erasing all the images on a memory card before I began and 45 minutes into shooting a warning flashed on my screen notifying me that my memory card had reached its capacity.

4) Purchase an intervalometer. I used a rather inexpensive Neewer® Shutter Release Timer Remote Control that allows you to set start time, time between intervals and amount of images you wish to take. (All the other settings should be done in your camera. Do not rely on the intervalometer for your desired settings)

5) Bring a strudy tripod. Take in consideration of wind and possible movement of your camera once attached. (I threw some heavy rocks into a bag and hung it from the bottom hook of my tripod to eliminate any possible shaking)

6) For my first few attempts I set my camera to aperture priority mode because I was shooting at sunset to be able adjust correctly for the light changing.

7) Set the correct interval time between shots to achieve the best possible end results. (I set my camera to 2-3 second intervals due to the fast moving clouds).

8) Calculating the amount of images needed to achieve a desired finished video length. Typically a time-lapse is 24fps (frames per second) so for a 30 second time-lapse you need approximately 720 images.

9) Have patience! You are going to be there for a long time waiting.

*Above video shot on Sony A7 consisting of 601 RAW images edited in Lightroom 5.

Post Processing

The editing process was also more challenging than I anticipated. In the lifeguard setting example I thought since most of the images from each frame were rather similar I would be able to edit at the most three images. The first, one in the middle and the last one. Then I copied the settings and applied them to the other photos. In the final edit you can see some gradient inconsistencies in the sky. Next time I know after I apply all the changes, I will have to go through the images frame-by-frame to check for flaws. Also flickering is a common element that needs to be considered which can sometimes be corrected in the timing set between frames.

I was determined to shoot on my Sony A7 because of the superior sharpness and detail of the images so I thought I would try a few techniques.

Above video shot on Sony A7 using the Sony Timelapse App consisting of 999 images processed in camera. *Fun fact that small object floating by from right to left happens to be the ashes of person who was being memorialized.

Above video shot on iPhone 6 using time-lapse feature in camera.

I thought that if I was able to compose, shoot and edit a photo I was proud to share, then shooting a time-lapse would surely not to be too difficult. Although I read extensively on it and tried to prepare, the best way to learn is by actually doing it.

Stay tuned for part 2 of what I learned shooting a time-lapse in the near future.

Until next time,


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